RALEIGH — President Barack Obama demanded Wednesday that Congress act swiftly to approve his jobs bill and called on the college students in the crowd at N.C. State University to help.
My question is: Whats Congress waiting for? Obama asked. Theres work to be done; there are workers ready to do it. Lets pass this jobs bill right away and lets get it done.
Holding a thick copy of his American Jobs Act in the air, Obama said the average North Carolina household making $42,000 a year would see a $1,300 tax break as part of his $447 billion proposal a stock pot filled with tax cuts, government spending and other projects designed to stimulate the stagnant U.S. economy.
The White House said the presidents plan would give North Carolina about $798 million to modernize roads and transit systems and another $900 million to retain or hire up to 13,000 teachers, firefighters and police officers.
Obama said he issued an order Wednesday directing all federal agencies to pay firms with government contracts within 15 days, instead of the current 30-day limit, to put more money in their pockets quicker.
At the same time, the president scolded lawmakers to pass this jobs bill the way a mother demands a child do chores, repeating the phrase 18 times.
The time for hand-wringing is over, he declared. The time for moping around is over. Weve got to kick off our bedroom slippers and put on our marching shoes. Weve got to get to work.
Obamas speech inside a hot and loud Reynolds Coliseum, filled to the brim with about 9,300 people, felt more like a campaign rally than a policy speech. Obama who took the stage in a white dress shirt with the cuffs rolled up appeared at ease, reviving his Yes We Can mantra from his 2008 campaign and jesting with college students who skipped class to attend the event.
It was his second visit to North Carolina in three months, a sign of the states battleground status in the 2012 election and next years Democratic National Convention in Charlotte.
I love you Barack, a man in the crowd shouted.
I love you back, the president responded laughing. But if you love me youve got to help me pass this bill.
The legislation is receiving a less favorable review in Washington, particularly Obamas proposal to pay for the bill by raising taxes on the wealthy, oil and gas companies, and private jet owners. With Congress balking at the huge spending in the bill, the White House has said the president would sign components of the legislation, if lawmakers cant agree on the entire package.
We want actual jobs, we want legislation to promote job growth, N.C. Republican Party Chairman Robin Hayes said. We do not want more campaign promises.
U.S. Rep. Renee Ellmers, a Dunn Republican, said Obamas plan is full of tired policies that previously failed.
No matter what he calls it its still the same thing and its not going to work, she said in a GOP conference call Wednesday morning before Air Force One landed at RDU. Hes going to North Carolina to put on a dog and pony show.
A Bloomberg national poll released hours before the presidents visit showed that 51 percent of Americans doubt his package will create jobs, compared to 40 percent who think it will work. But a separate Gallup poll showed that Americans want their lawmakers to vote for Obamas plan by a 45 percent to 32 percent margin.
Not everyone in the crowd at N.C. State was enamored with the president. Attempts to chant O-ba-ma failed to incite the energy of the larger crowd and the marching band helped fill the void, along with campaign-styled songs like Only in America by country act Brooks & Dunn.
But John Williams, a 29-year-old graduate student in the audience, said the president is doing the right thing.
When you give poor people money, they spend it, he said. When you give rich people money, they save it.
Obama landed in the Triangle just before 11 a.m., and jogged down the steps from Air Force One to greet Democratic Gov. Bev Perdue and a host of local mayors.
Before the speech, he visited WestStar Precision, a small manufacturing company in Apex owned by Wake County Commissioner Erv Portman, a Democrat who donated money to Obamas campaign and inauguration.
Wearing safety goggles and accompanied by Perdue, the president visited various work sites, including one where he examined an airplane food tray being prepared for a European airline.
A group of people outside the plant held a sign that read, We are Democrats and Republicans working as Americans to grow small business.
The president didnt address Republican critics who said that WestStar built a manufacturing facility in Costa Rica to take advantage of cheaper labor costs. But he said Portmans company and others in Research Triangle epitomize how companies create something of lasting value which is how the nation built a strong and growing economy and a strong, expanding middle class.
In the crowd, David Chung, an N.C. State senior, represented the mood of many college students preparing to enter the workforce in the near future.
He entered college in 2007, just before the housing market collapsed and crippled the broader economy in North Carolina, and he said his academic pursuits shielded him from the downturn. But as he prepares to graduate in May, Chung said he is watching the economy closely.
Im somewhat optimistic, said the computer science major, a registered Democrat from Charlotte. But at the same time, Im still a little worried.
Staff writer Rob Christensen contributed to this report.